U. of New Haven and Upstart Coding School Team Up on Master’s Program

A new breed of for-profit coding schools has emerged in recent years, largely as a skills-focused alternative to traditional higher education. Now one of them has joined forces with a traditional university to build a master’s program.

The University of New Haven has teamed up with Galvanize, one of those upstart coding schools, to create GalvanizeU, a 12-month master’s program in data science based in San Francisco. The program will allow students to both take courses and work alongside industry players. The inaugural class will begin coursework next week.

Jim Deters, chief executive of Galvanize, said he wanted to build a new type of skills-based school. He knew a lot about the skills important to the tech world, but he didn’t know much about the world of education.

When the company started gSchool, an unaccredited program, in January 2013, Mr. Deters said he realized there were many challenges he hadn’t expected, and so he saw the benefit of forming a partnership with a traditional college.

“I was the guy looking at disrupting education completely from outside, and then we decided to do it from outside in and within by partnering with an interesting innovator like UNH,” Mr. Deters said.

The relationship between Galvanize and the Connecticut university was facilitated by University Ventures, a private-equity firm that had been working with New Haven to develop a program of this kind.

When University Ventures contacted the college about creating an engineering program, later reimagined as a data-science program, New Haven decided to go for it, recognizing the advantages of working with a private-equity firm, said the university’s president, Steven H. Kaplan.

“They function in a much more rational and effective manner than most colleges and universities, most not-for-profits, clearly because they’re profit-driven,” Mr. Kaplan said. “They pay attention to things such as efficiencies and rationalization of processes. They don’t let themselves get bogged down in bureaucracy.”

For New Haven to create this kind of program on its own, he added, it would take far more time and a reallocation of resources, especially for a program 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, near the businesses most likely to hire its graduates. He said that the project would help the university move into new areas of instruction and research quickly and then bring that experience back to its own campus.

New Haven brings legitimacy to the project, not just because of its accreditation and the fact that students who complete the program will receive a degree from New Haven, but also because it understands the inner workings of colleges and the responsibilities of faculty members, Mr. Kaplan said.

The people at Galvanize are “incredibly entrepreneurial and innovative,” he said, but they’re not academics, at least not in the traditional sense.

The program is the first of its kind, Mr. Deters said, in that it was “built from the ground up.” Organizers didn’t assemble a data-science degree by grabbing a few computer-science courses from here and mathematics courses from there.

Mr. Deters said the partnership was trying to take all the things higher education does right, removing the bureaucracy, and creating an environment and classroom aligned with the industry. Rather than having education and industry as completely separate entities, the program is bringing them together — what he called its “secret sauce.”

Galvanize and the university jointly developed the curriculum, which was then subjected to review by various university offices as well as both the State of Connecticut and the State of California. Galvanize instructors will do the teaching, at the company’s office, but the university was involved in hiring them, so they are recognized as UNH professors. The university also has oversight of students admitted to the program, said Ronald S. Harichandran, dean of New Haven’s college of engineering.

The program is oriented toward industry, including internships at local companies and intensive capstone projects, so being in the heart of San Francisco was crucial, Mr. Harichandran said. It wouldn’t have been easy for the university to set up shop in San Francisco and establish relationships with Silicon Valley companies. “It’s like a restaurant,” he said. “Location, location, location is everything.”

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